Amazon Bans Sales Of Foreign Seeds In US After Mystery Packets

 

 

Amazon has banned sales of imported seeds in the United States after thousands of Americans said they had received packets of seeds they had not ordered, mostly from China.

“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the US,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement Saturday.

In late July the Department of Agriculture reported that packages of seeds had been sent to Americans and warned not to plant them, in case they posed a danger to US agriculture.

Examination of the mystery packages revealed at least 14 different kinds of seeds, including mint, mustard, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus and roses.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” the Department of Agriculture said in a statement on August 12.

AFP

COVID-19: 997 Americans Leave Nigeria For U.S

A security official and medical personnel move around at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun / Channels TV
A security official and medical personnel move around at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport in Abuja. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun / Channels TV

 

 

The U.S. Mission in Nigeria on Thursday said it has helped 997 Americans return home to reunite with family and friends amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Between April 6 to 8, the US Consulate organised three chartered flights operated by Delta Air Lines and Ethiopian Airlines to repatriate 850 Americans from the Murtala Muhammed Internal Airport in Lagos.

This was in addition to the 147 U.S. citizens who departed Abuja on April 4.
On March 29, Israel also commenced the evacuation of its citizens resident in Abuja.

READ ALSO: ‘Are They Paying Ghosts?’ Federal Lawmakers Questions NSIP Credibility

“These repatriation flights were made possible by a tremendous effort by the U.S. Consulate team and great cooperation from Nigerian partners, including the Ministry of Aviation, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, the Nigeria Immigration Service, and the Lagos State Government,” the US diplomatic mission said in its statement.

As of April 8, 2020, the Department of State has coordinated the repatriation of 50,339 Americans from 94 countries since January 29, 2020.

“This has been three weeks in the making,” United States Consul General Claire Pierangelo, said.

“We had more than 50 people working on this on a daily basis to make sure that we can find the Americans, get the planes, secure flight clearances for the planes to land here and also ensure safe passage of the Americans travelling to the airport since the city is on lockdown.

“It was an enormous effort and I am incredibly proud of my team. We appreciate all the help from our Nigerian partners. We couldn’t have done this without them.”

Pierangelo added that the U.S. Mission remains committed to working closely with the Nigerian government and the various health authorities to keep everyone healthy and safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up To 150 Million Americans Could Get Coronavirus – US Lawmaker

US representative from Michigan Rashida Tlaib speaks before Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders addresses his supporters during a campaign rally at TCF Center in Detroit, Michigan, on March 6, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP

 

The physician for the United States Congress expects between 70 to 150 million people in the country to eventually get infected with the novel coronavirus, a lawmaker said Thursday.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib made the remarks during a hearing of the House of Representatives with members of the president’s coronavirus task force, confirming what was reported earlier by US media outlets including Axios and NBC News.

“Congress’s attending physician told the Senate that he expects between 70 to 150 million people to eventually contract the coronavirus in the United States,” Tlaib said.

Axios had reported that doctor Brian Monahan conveyed the projection to Senate senior staff on Tuesday, telling them they should prepare for the worst and offering advice on how to remain healthy.

The upper end of the projection is about 46 percent of the US population of 327 million people. By comparison German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned this week that up to 70 percent of her country’s population could get the virus.

Asked by Tlaib whether he believed the projection was accurate, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told the hearing: “We really need to be careful with those kinds of predictions because that’s based on a model.”

He added that “all models are as good as the assumptions that you put into the model” and that with containment and mitigation the upper end of the projection could be avoided.

About 80 percent of coronavirus cases are mild, and the overall mortality rate is around one percent, according to the latest estimate provided by Fauci to Congress on Wednesday.

At the low end of the projection this would mean about 700,000 deaths. At the high end it would mean 1.5 million deaths.

Heart disease was the leading cause of death for Americans in 2018, with just over 650,000 deaths in 2018. The flu and pneumonia caused around 60,000 deaths.

Risk from coronavirus starts to increase for people who are over 60 and is heightened more for those over 80, as well as for people who have conditions like diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, or whose immune systems are compromised.

Fauci noted that a 2014 model by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projected the African Ebola outbreak could affect more than a million people. But this was eventually not the case and the final number was under 30,000.

 ‘Failing’ on test shortages 

Fauci also responded to a query about people having difficulty getting access to tests, which US authorities have come under severe criticism over.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing,” said Fauci. “Let’s admit it.”

“The idea of anybody getting it easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes, but we’re not.”

Vice President Mike Pence, the White House’s pointman for the crisis, claimed earlier this week that “a million tests are in the field” and four million would be going out soon.

But the CDC’s director Robert Redfield said that the kits were not operational because there was a shortage of substances that activated them, called re-agents, and they also required more nasal swabs and trained staff.

AFP

Several Americans Killed In Sri Lanka Attacks – Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo/ AFP

 

Several Americans were among the more than 200 people killed Sunday in a series of bombings of hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“While many details of the attacks are still emerging, we can confirm that several US citizens were among those killed,” he said in a statement.

“The US Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families.”

The attacks, which police said left more than 450 people wounded in addition to at least 207 dead, constituted the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war a decade ago.

READ ALSO: Death Toll In Sri Lanka Blasts Rises To 207 – Police

The government imposed an indefinite nationwide curfew. There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

Earlier reports citing Sri Lankan officials said the number of dead foreigners as between 27 and 35, including Americans, British and Dutch.

A White House statement said that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms the outrageous terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.”

Since the 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, the country — noted for its friendliness, natural beauty, its temples and mix of cultures  — had drawn increasing numbers of foreign tourists.

The Lonely Planet guide last year named it “the best country in the world to visit in 2019.”

AFP

Trump Attends Repatriation Of Four Americans Killed In Syria

 

US President Donald Trump attended a silent, solemn ceremony on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in northern Syria in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group that took place after he declared the jihadists “largely defeated.”

Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, where they walked slowly up the cargo ramp of the grey C-17 cargo plane that had brought home the remains.

Inside, a chaplain said a prayer and a loud “Amen” could be heard.

Trump and the rest of his delegation, which included senior army and navy officers, emerged from the plane after several minutes to stand at attention, saluting.

A six-member Navy ceremonial team wearing camouflage then brought out a flag-draped casket bearing Scott Wirtz, a former Navy SEAL working as a Department of Defense civilian when he was killed.

About 100 people in uniform and civilian dress who had connections to the victims also watched as the ceremonial team slow-marched the casket to a waiting van.

Then came caskets with the other victims: a soldier, a navy cryptologic technician, and a civilian contractor.

Trump had earlier tweeted that he would be in Dover “with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!”

Nineteen people including the four Americans were killed in a suicide bombing at a small restaurant in the flashpoint northern Syrian town of Manbij on Wednesday. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against IS.

It came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignation of defense secretary Jim Mattis.

Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although it remained unclear how long that would take.

After sweeping across swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, the IS jihadists’ cross-border “caliphate” has been erased by multiple offensives and is now confined to a tiny embattled enclave in eastern Syria close to the Iraqi border.

But despite the stinging defeats, IS has proved it is still capable of carrying out deadly attacks using hideouts in the sprawling desert or sleeper cells in the towns.

AFP

Trump Hails ‘Brave’ WWI Americans In Cemetery Visit

US President Donald Trump delivers a speech during a visit at the American Cemetery of Suresnes, outside Paris, on November 11, 2018 as part of Veterans Day and the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I.
Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

 

President Donald Trump paid tribute to the “brave Americans” who died in World War I as he visited a US cemetery in France, a day after drawing fire for cancelling a similar trip due to rain.

Speaking at the Suresnes cemetery in the western Paris suburbs Trump said he and other officials were “gathered at this hallowed resting place to pay tribute to brave Americans” who died a century ago, as well as to the French troops with whom they fought.

Americans Own 40% Of The World’s Firearms – Study

File photo

 

Americans make up only four per cent of the global population but they own 40 per cent of the world’s firearms, a new study said Monday.

There are more than one billion firearms in the world but 85 per cent of those are in the hands of civilians, with the remainder held by law enforcement and the military, according to the Small Arms Survey.

The survey, produced by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, says it bases its estimates based on multiple sources, including civilian firearms registration data from 133 countries and territories and survey results in 56 countries.

Of the 857 million guns owned by civilians, 393 million are in the United States – more than all of the firearms held by ordinary citizens in the other top 25 countries combined.

“The biggest force pushing up gun ownership around the world is civilian ownership in the United States,” said Aaron Karp, one of the authors of the report which compiles new data from the last ten years.

“Ordinary American people buy approximately 14 million new and imported guns every year,” Karp told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York.

Americans have access to powerful firearms that are not available in many other countries due to tighter legislation.

“Why are they buying them? That’s another debate. Above all, they are buying them probably because they can. The American market is extraordinarily permissive,” he said.

Gun ownership rates vary across the world, with 121 firearms for every 100 residents in the United States compared to 53 in Yemen, 39 in Montenegro, and 35 in Canada.

Japan and Indonesia are at the other end of the spectrum with less than one firearm per 100 people.

Only 28 countries released information on their military stockpiles while 28 nations offered information the firearms owned by law enforcement agencies.

Civilian firearms registration data was available for 133 countries and territories. Survey results were used

AFP

Six Americans Injured In Honduras Plane Crash

A police officer uses a fire extinguisher at the site of an accident after a plane went off the runway at Toncontin International airport and collapsed over a busy boulevard in Tegucigalpa on May 22, 2018.  Orlando SIERRA / AFP

 

At least six Americans were injured Tuesday when a plane crashed while landing at the Honduran capital’s international airport and split in two. 

The commercial jet from Austin, Texas left the runway and veered into a ditch, Carlos Cordero, deputy head of Honduras‘s disaster relief agency Copeco told local media.

Firefighters arrived at Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa and used foam to extinguish flames coming from the wreckage.

Local businessman Pedro Atala said he and his employees had helped put out the flames with fire extinguishers, and that he had helped five men and a woman, all of whom were “practically unharmed.”

“Miraculously” the accident hadn’t been worse, he added.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez said on Twitter that all of the wounded were in a stable condition.

Surrounded by mountains and with a very short runway, the Toncontin airport is considered one of the world’s most treacherous.

In May 2008 a Taca Airlines plane skidded off the runway and crashed into a building, leaving five people dead.

The government is constructing a new international airport about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the capital, near the Palmerola military air base.

AFP

Trump Receives Americans Freed By North Korea

US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with US detainee Kim Dong-chul (C) upon his return with fellow detainees Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim (behind) after they were freed by North Korea, at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on May 10, 2018. Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

President Donald Trump personally greeted three Americans freed from imprisonment by North Korea after they arrived near Washington early Thursday.

Trump, who is preparing for a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, greeted the men at Joint Base Andrews in the middle of the night.

He and First Lady Melania boarded the light blue and white government plane shortly after it touched down to meet privately with the men.

The release by Kim, a much needed diplomatic win for Trump, was a stepping stone to his historic upcoming meeting with the North Korean leader.

AFP

America Remembers Martin Luther King Jr, 50 Years On

The Ebenezer Baptist Church choir stands during a moment of silence in the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination prior to the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals at SunTrust Park on April 4, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Americans on Wednesday marked 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, a day seared into the national consciousness that transformed the civil rights leader into a symbol of the fight for racial equality.

In a country still torn over issues of race and class, demonstrators rallied in Memphis, Tennessee where the pastor and Nobel Peace Prize winner was slain aged 39 on a motel balcony by a white supremacist sniper on April 4, 1968, as well as in Washington where he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

“When we look at the state of race relations, we’ve made dramatic progress in 50 years — but we’re nowhere near where we need to be,” King’s activist son, Martin Luther King III, told ABC from Memphis, where he was taking part in a symbolic march.

“I think he’d be disappointed with some of the discourse that we see,” said King III, although he added that his father would “be very excited” by today’s activist movements including Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo campaign for women’s rights, and student-led movements against gun violence.

“He would know that we as a nation can, must and will do better.”

Now lionized for his heroic campaigns against racism and segregation, King was a controversial, radical activist who with a mantra of non-violence ardently campaigned against poverty and economic injustice, including what he called the continued “exploitation of the poor,” and US wars abroad.

His January 15 birthday is a national holiday, and a 30-foot (nine-meter) statue in his likeness towers in Washington as a tribute to his life and work.

 ‘Still raw’

On the anniversary’s eve prominent civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson — speaking from Memphis’s Lorraine Motel balcony, where King was gunned down — said “the sore is still raw” from the fatal shooting.

“It’s always a source of pain and anxiety,” said Jackson, who was a member of King’s entourage and was at the motel when he was murdered.

“It happened so suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, on the way to dinner. He’ll always be 39.”

But his legacy, Jackson said, survives in the hearts and actions of demonstrators today wielding flags of racial, social and economic justice.

“You can fight to stop the loop of violence,” Jackson urged those activists. “We are much too blessed to be so violent as a nation.”

King catapulted into the national spotlight by taking the lead on a year-long boycott against racial segregation on local buses.

He is perhaps best known for the “I Have a Dream” speech he delivered to some 250,000 demonstrators on August 28, 1963 as part of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

One year later he became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner at 35 for his non-violent resistance.

Prior to King’s assassination, which triggered an outpouring of grief and riots in more than 100 cities, he had traveled to Memphis to support sanitation workers striking for better conditions and higher pay.

Elmore Nickleberry, now 86, is today one of the last participants in that strike still on the job.

“The mood was mighty bad when he got killed. People started hollering, started crying,” Nickleberry told AFP.

He recalled that poignant moment of tension and pain, but Nickleberry said it is King’s call for non-violent action that lives on.

“He was a man of marching, he was a man that was non-violent,” the sanitation worker said. “That’s what I remember today.”

‘Promised land’

US President Donald Trump paid homage to the civil rights icon by proclaiming April 4, 2018 a day to honor King.

“It is not government that will achieve Dr. King’s ideals, but rather the people of this great country who will see to it that our Nation represents all that is good and true, and embodies unity, peace, and justice,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump has been sharply criticized for divisive comments targeting Latino and Muslim immigrants, and for refusing to condemn outright a violent white supremacist rally last year that ended in bloodshed.

Several US lawmakers travelled to Memphis for the day-long tribute featuring singing, prayer and speeches.

Laura Richardson, who works for a non-profit group, said she praised the “courage” within King “to go in love, go without violence, and never take a step back, and fight for everyone’s right.”

A crowd gathered at the Lorraine Motel, which has been transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum, while more than 1,000 also marched near a local union headquarters, where King had joined protesting workers on the eve of his assassination.

“I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you,” King prophetically said that night. “But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the promised land!”

AFP

North Korea In Talks To Free Jailed Americans

North Korea’s President, Kim Jong Un  Photo Credit: AFP

 

North Korea is in talks with the US and Sweden to release three jailed Americans, reports said, as diplomatic activities intensified ahead of Pyongyang’s planned summits with Washington and Seoul.

The release of the three Korean-Americans is under discussion through multiple channels more than a week after President Donald Trump agreed to meet the North’s Kim Jong Un, the reports said.

Pyongyang has yet to confirm it even made the US summit offer — relayed by Seoul envoys who had met Kim in Pyongyang — but South Korea said he had “given his word” about his commitment to denuclearisation.

Trump’s stunning announcement has triggered a race to set a credible agenda for what would be historic talks between the two leaders.

Seoul-based MBC TV station reported Sunday that Pyongyang and Washington had “practically reached” a final agreement on the release of US citizens Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-Duk and Kim Dong-Chul.

“They are hammering out details over the timing of the release,” it quoted a South Korean diplomatic source as saying.

The negotiation was held through the North’s mission to the United Nations and the US State Department — an unofficial avenue of communication dubbed the “New York channel”, the source said.

CNN said the prisoners’ release was also discussed at three-day talks in Stockholm between the North’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom that ended Saturday.

Sweden represents Washington’s interests in the North. It raised the issue of American detainees to “move things in the right direction”, CNN quoted one source as saying.

Kim Dong-Chul, a South Korea-born American pastor, has been detained by the North since 2015 when he was arrested for spying. He was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour in 2016.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-Duk — or Tony Kim — were both working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, founded by evangelical Christians from overseas when they were detained last year on suspicion of “hostile acts”.

Diplomatic flurry 

Reports of their possible release come amid a flurry of diplomatic activities involving Pyongyang and  Washington along with Seoul and other US allies.

During a visit to Pyongyang by Seoul’s envoys earlier this month, Kim reportedly offered to meet Trump, with the US president subsequently agreeing to talks by May. No specific time or venue has been set.

Kim also agreed to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month — the third ever between the two Koreas — according to the envoys. And he reportedly offered to consider abandoning his nuclear weapons in exchange for US security guarantees.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said in an interview aired Sunday that Kim was “taking stock” after Trump’s surprise decision to accept the invitation, but that a channel of communication had been established.

She said Kim had “given his word” on his commitment to denuclearisation.

“But the significance of his word is quite, quite weighty in the sense that this is the first time that the words came directly from the North Korean supreme leader himself, and that has never been done before,” Kang told CBS’s “Face the Nation”.

Nothing has been offered to the North Koreans to engage in negotiations, she said.

The Stockholm talks overlapped with another meeting between the national security advisers of the US, South Korea and Japan.

US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, the South’s Chung Eui-Yong and Japan’s Shotaro Yachi met in San Francisco over the weekend and vowed “close policy coordination” for the weeks ahead, Seoul’s presidential office said.

They agreed that peace on the Korean peninsula hinges on the success of the two planned summits, vowing “not to repeat the failure of the past”, it said in an apparent reference to previous botched nuclear disarmament negotiations with the North.

Also on Sunday a senior North Korean diplomat arrived in Finland for talks on peninsula issues with former officials and academics from the US and South Korea.

The sudden rapprochement comes months after the North staged its most powerful nuclear test and test-fired missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

Kim and Trump traded colourful threats of war and personal insults, which heightened global concerns of another conflict on the peninsula once reduced to ruin by the 1950-53 Korean War.

AFP

Three Million Americans Carry A Handgun Daily – Study

As many as three million people in the United States carry a loaded handgun daily, while nine million do so at least once a month, according to a US study Thursday.

Most of these gun-toting Americans are young men, live in the south and say personal protection is a top reason for walking around with a deadly weapon, said the report in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study is the first in 20 years to look at gun-carrying habits in a nation that has been repeatedly seen fatal mass shootings at schools, concerts, and workplaces, researchers said.

“It was important to study handgun carrying because about 90 percent of all firearm homicides and nonfatal firearm crimes for which the type of firearm is known are committed with a handgun,” said lead author Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

“An important first step to examining the consequences of firearm carrying at the national level is an accurate measurement of the occurrence of this behavior and characterization of those who engage in it.”

The data came from a 2015 nationally representative survey that assessed handgun-carrying behavior of 1,444 gun owners.

“Compared with handgun owners who did not carry, those who did report carrying handguns tended to be younger, and more often male, live in the southern United States, have grown up in firearm-owning households, self-identify as politically conservative, and own more than one type of firearm,” said the report.

The survey found that 80 percent of surveyed handgun owners who carried their handgun had a concealed-carry permit.

Two-thirds said they always carried their handguns concealed, compared with 10 percent who said they always carry their weapons openly.

Some owners reported carrying a concealed handgun without a permit in states in which doing so was illegal.

Nationwide, state laws on handgun carrying have generally become less restrictive over the last 30 years, said the study.

Co-authors on the study came from the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Colorado and Northeastern University.

AFP